Selling in a pandemic: How to modify your approach for a new sales reality

The following is a preview of some of the topics to be discussed in our upcoming webinar, Maintaining Growth in Challenging Times, August 5, 2020. View on-demand replay here. Our thanks to Michael Shea, vice president of Americas Sales at SnapLogic, for this guest blog. 

It may seem that the COVID-19 pandemic was tailor-made to disrupt the sales profession. Even in the pre-pandemic environment of virtual interaction and remote communications, sales was still a relationship-driven business—one that thrives on face-to-face engagement. That dynamic literally changed overnight.

Be creative

It’s not just you. We’re all preoccupied and distracted. The sales professional’s job is to find a way to cut through the noise. It takes creativity to stand out. The following can help:

  • Be remote, but keep it personal – With so many of us working remotely, it’s tempting to rely on email and messaging apps to stay in touch with prospects. But people are craving connection and personal interaction. Verizon reports that the length of voice calls was up 33% versus pre-pandemic levels, and AT&T says that the volume of cellular calls has risen 35%. Your face and voice can have a powerful impact. Pick up the phone and use video chats when you can.
  • Quality content reigns supreme – We’re all zeroing in on what matters, which means we don’t have time for fluff. That’s why it’s critical that the quality of content you use has to be top-notch. It still needs to support your case and help usher a prospect toward the next step, but above all it needs to be credible and relevant.
  • Appearance still matters, but in a different way – Even though we’re at home, no one wants to see you in your pajamas. Being more casual than the office is OK but maintaining a professional look should still be top of mind. The background of your video call says something about you, too. It can be personal (in fact, that may even be preferable to a stark, generic look), but make sure it’s appropriate for clients and prospects.
  • Consult, don’t pitch – How does your solution or service help the prospect do business in this new reality? Put them first and steer clear of your own agenda to sell. Businesses are tightening their belts, so you need to be able to provide value and meet their needs. Do your homework so that your recommendations are relevant, timely, creative and investment-worthy.

Be empathetic

It may sound like a cliché, but it’s true: We’re all in this together. In this environment, being more empathetic isn’t just smart business, it’s also the right thing to do. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Listen – The pandemic has disrupted business, but it has also affected each of us personally. While sales pros are great at listening to the business challenges a client faces, there’s also that personal subtext that we need to be sensitive toward. Take the time to really listen to the client. The traditional sales approach of creating doubt and uncertainty regarding competitors may not be the best tactic given that we’ve all had our fill of these emotions over the past several months.
  • Safety is a top concern – We need to do a better job of anticipating all of the client’s concerns about safety, from how our solution or service helps improve it to how we’ll address it during the sales cycle, the implementation process, and ongoing service and support.
  • Time is precious – Your prospects are like you—switching from one video call to another all day, every day. Be aware that their schedule is just as frantic as yours and don’t add to their to-do list unnecessarily.

Be supportive

Your clients aren’t the only ones who are adapting to an entirely new set of challenges. Your team is also relearning how to do their jobs. Don’t assume because your team is made up of seasoned road warriors who are innovative and flexible that they’ll automatically adjust to this new world. Here are some of the ways you can give them the support they’ll need:

  • Reset expectations about sales cycles – It will probably take longer to close deals than it did pre-pandemic. Businesses are carefully reexamining their priorities and closely scrutinizing their purchases, which may prolong the B2B sales cycle.
  • Adjust targets – Are your pre-pandemic targets and quotas still realistic? You may be asking too much of your team to stick to goals you set as late as March 2020.
  • Focus on quick wins – Momentum matters more than ever. Keep your team motivated and positive by picking the low-hanging fruit and logging easy wins first.
  • Re-engage existing clients – Even in an environment of unprecedented challenges, it’s still true that it costs less to sell to existing customers than to new ones. And research shows that improving retention rates by 5% could boost profits from 25% to 95%.
  • Strengthen referral programs – Anything an existing customer says about you will always mean more than anything you say about yourself. Consider redoubling your efforts with a customer reference program, case studies, and testimonials to clear the runway for your team.

Fortunately, not all business has come to a grinding halt—but the way it gets done has changed for the foreseeable future. While old sales tactics may no longer work, old-school virtues like creativity, empathy, and a supportive mindset are more valuable than ever.  For more on this topic, join us on August 5, 2020, for our webinar, Maintaining Growth in Challenging Times. View on-demand replay here.

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